Crate training a puppy is a dog training program based on multiple steps you follow to make your puppy consider the crate as his den and safe spot.
It is not unusual for puppies to regress a little on training, and this could happen at any stage of the crate training process.
There are multiple reasons why puppies regress in crate training and different ways to deal with it and get back on track.
Crate training setbacks are quite frequent especially for inexperienced dog owners, but it’s not always your fault.
Next, we will explore the most frequent reasons for regression in crate training and the best way to deal with it, but let us first dissect this concept.
What is crate training regression?
Crate training regression is a phase when the puppy that you’ve been training to sleep and nap in the crate and has shown good progress suddenly refuses to go in his crate.
Crate training regression can be partial like the puppy refusing to go in the crate during the day, or a complete setback when the puppy refuses to go in the crate at all even at night.
Crate training regression can take a few hours, a couple of days, and sometimes you will have to start over the whole training process.
It is not always easy to detect a regression in crate training, different reasons could be the cause why a dog would suddenly hate his crate.
Crate training regression is usually related to the training process itself or mistakes made by the dog owner and not to the crate itself or its environment.
So, if there is something wrong with the crate, or its environment, all it usually takes is to fix it and the dog can go back to his beloved crate.
Is crate training regression normal?
It is normal for puppies to regress on crate training, especially for new dog owners, this happens frequently but in most cases, it doesn’t last long.
If your puppy is perfectly crate trained and is sleeping and napping in his crate for months then suddenly rejects the crate then it’s not normal.
However, for a puppy that is still in training, it’s a matter of conditioning the dog to love something, and sometimes setbacks can happen.
It usually happens when you’re using too many treats and toys and bribing the puppy more than training, once the treats stop the puppy goes back to step one.
So what causes puppies to regress in crate training, and that’s what we will discuss next.
Reasons for crate training regression
There are multiple potential reasons for crate training regression, some are related to how you’re training your dog, and others are more considered as mistakes to avoid.
Lack of consistency in training
Consistency in dog training is easily overlooked and it’s very important, the whole process is a repetition of the same techniques and cues.
Using the same cues can make training in general easier, especially if there are multiple persons in the family trying to crate train the same dog.
The fact that “sit” and “sitdown” mean the same thing can take a while for a dog to be understood if it ever happens.
Everyone should use the same cues and techniques for training, it makes it easier for the puppy to understand and it’s less confusing.
You can easily make a false claim that your puppy has a setback in crate training while you’ve been using different cues and he’s just confused.
Going into the crate at the same time can also be a good idea to make it more predictable and easier to condition into your puppy.
Rushing the crate training
This is a very frequent situation when you can observe some progress while crate training your puppy and you get too excited and rush things up then suddenly it backfires and you face a setback.
This usually happens to inexperienced dog owners but also to overly confident dog trainers, you always have to make sure your puppy is feeling comfortable before moving to the next step of the training process.
Forcing a dog into the crate is never a good idea yet it’s a very common mistake, most dog owners will just lure their puppies into the crate and just close the door without the introduction phase.
The first and most important step in the crate training program is to introduce your dog to his crate, and this should be your cornerstone for every step.
Phasing out on treats too early
Training treats are an important tool when crate training a puppy, they are your best friend especially at the early stages of the training process.
Using too many treats can be a problem though, they are great to lure the puppy into the crate and reward good behavior, but too many can make them the center of attention.
It’s hard to get a puppy inside the crate without treats if he’s been heavily fed treats every time he steps inside it.
There is also the fact that you have to slowly phase out on treats while replacing them with verbal praise and toys, doing it too early will make your puppy regress in crate training.
You can always crate train your puppy without treats but it will be much harder and certainly take longer.
Using the crate for punishment
This is the ultimate mistake you can make, the one that will torpedo all your efforts to crate train your puppy.
The crate is supposed to be a great and safe place where the puppy should feel safe and comfortable, and nothing in this sentence rhymes with punishment.
Using the crate for time out or punishment sends confusing messages to the puppy and it’s understandable that he won’t be thrilled to get into the crate again.
The crate should never be associated with anything negative such as punishment, reprimand, or abandonment.
Using the crate for punishment is the number one cause for crate training regression, it can turn a dog that is perfectly crate trained and enjoying his time in the crate into one that hates the sight of it.
Not enough training and activities
A puppy that is not having enough exercise will eventually refuse to go into the crate, just like us they don’t want to sleep when feeling energetic and excited.
An energetic puppy that doesn’t get enough playtime will regress in crate training, but it’s generally temporary and not as obvious as the previous reasons.
The crate should be a place where the puppy goes to sleep and relax when low on energy not all hyped up, play sessions and exercise before crate time is always important.
It easily to detect that lack of exercise is the reason behind crate training regressions, because your puppy will reject his crate and show signs of playfulness and excitement.
Tips for dealing with crate training regression
Crate training regression is a normal setback that you could face when training your puppy and there are a few tips you can follow to get things back on track again in no time.
Using treats and toys
Training treats have always been a great motivational tool to enforce good behavior in dogs, there is nothing better than a couple of high-quality treats to lure your puppy back to his crate again.
It’s like phase one of the crate training process, just toss a treat inside the crate let your dog follow it then reward him with another.
Most puppies love treats and will eventually offer to get inside the crate on their own to get one, use that to restore their love for the crate.
Of course, you need to be careful when phasing out on treats and make sure it’s done gradually while replacing them with toys and praise.
Toys can also be a great way to keep your puppy distracted in his crate after a major setback, We often recommend using the Kong (check on Amazon).
The kong can be used as a food puzzle that will keep your puppy distracted for a while in his crate and there are plenty of free kong recipes online for it.
Start over with the crate training
When facing crate training regression, going back to the basics can be your best solution, it will of course take less time for the puppy to get back on track.
Start from the beginning by introducing the puppy to his crate and exploring it with treats and toys and rebuild his trust in the crate.
When you start over you make sure any bad associations your dog has had with the crate are replaced with positive ones.
Just follow the simple steps of the crate training process, don’t rush the training, and use food, treats, and toys to your advantage.
Exercise and games
Exercising before going into the crate always makes the puppy more willing to be in the crate and relax.
Any sort of activity is good for puppies before it’s time to go into the crate, interactive games are especially good because they help you bond with your puppy and drain his energy.
Of course how much exercise a puppy needs, depends on many factors including the age and the breed of the puppy.
For some puppies, a simple walk around the block will suffice, while for other active breeds like terriers it will take much more to get the puppy to calm down and relax in his crate.
Make the crate great again
The best way to deal with crate training regression is to break all the bad associations your puppy might have had with the crate.
These bad associations can be related to incidents that have happened in the crate, like another pet using the crate, some bad smell, a broken crate that injured the puppy, or a mistake made by the owner like using it for punishment or leaving the puppy for too long in it.
Making changes to the crate or changing the crate altogether can be a quick solution if the puppy is rejecting the crate.
Sometimes a new bed can be enough just to make some sort of change and start on a new basis.
Making the crate a fun and comfortable place can be achieved using food toys and sometimes just verbal praise.
Crate training as a process falls within the Pavlovian Conditioning theory which is in simple words making a learning process by association.
Dogs are known to associate places to experiences and evaluate these places based on how positive the experience is.
That’s why everything your puppy likes needs to be associated with the crate such as food, games, and treats.